Traveling with your significant other for the first time should be exciting, but it might not always come without its challenges. Yes, there are endless opportunities for fun and romantic adventures around the world, but taking a trip with someone new can be downright stressful if you’re not prepared. From flight delays to getting lost in a foreign city, there are various parts of vacationing that could lead to a new couple butting heads.
Sameera Sullivan, a professional relationship coach and CEO of matchmaking service Lasting Connections, understands the pitfalls of traveling with a new partner. But more importantly, she knows how to navigate around them to ensure the first trip you take as a couple won’t also be your last.
Travel + Leisure: How long should a couple wait until they decide to take a trip together?
Sameera Sullivan: I think it should be six months, but it also depends on the trip. If you’re going to Europe for a week or two weeks, I feel like you should at least be dating for six months — but again, it depends. If you’ve been dating for only three months, how often do you see each other? Do you know each other’s traveling style? You have to communicate about that before you go on a trip. You have to communicate with each other on what you like to do, how you like to travel, and what your definition of “going on a trip together” means.
Should you set up any solo time on your trip?
I think it’s always good to do something alone. If you have something you want to do individually, maybe take some time off from each other, especially if you’re staying together in the same hotel. I think I’d definitely recommend taking some time off — you’re doing your thing, they’re doing their thing — I think that’s really healthy.
What should you discuss before the trip to avoid any disagreements?
I think traveling style is very important because some people like to travel first class, and some people don’t really care how they get there, but want to stay at a nice hotel. For other people, the hotel doesn’t matter, and it’s more about traveling and experiencing something. Where do you want to spend your money when you’re traveling? Those are the things that you want to discuss before you get there, because that can really agitate some people. Your traveling style, what you like to do — do you like outdoorsy stuff? Do you want to go to museums? Do you want to visit other cities nearby? You have to talk about the things you’re going to do before you do them.
What’s the ideal length of time a new couple’s first trip should be?
I would say before you go on a longer trip, you should go on a weekend trip together first, near wherever you live. You have to be smart; you have to be cautious. You don’t want to be in a different country and then hate yourself because you’re with a person you realize you can’t stand. That takes a toll on a new relationship.
What are some things that might stress a new couple out while traveling?
There’s so much unpredictability when you’re traveling. There’s so much that can happen. There are flight delays, or you can be stopped at customs, but I think the biggest thing that people struggle with when traveling as a new couple is that you’re with that person all the time.
If you had to pack a couple’s “First Trip Emergency Kit,” what would be inside?
I would say a spa package. Go to a spa together, so you can relax a little bit — I’d definitely schedule something like that. Don’t have back-to-back things to do, kind of keep things up in the air. In the kit, there should be a list of things each person absolutely has to do, but don’t over-pack the schedule. Have a couple of days where you can just be relaxing and not really be going by the plans, and don’t decide on some things until you get there. I think that can really save a lot of people.
What should a couple do if they have very different vacation spending habits?
That’s very difficult. One thing you can do is, if someone wants to spend more on the hotel, and the other person is like, “No, I’d rather stay at a cheaper hotel,” then the person who wants to spend more on the hotel could maybe offer to pay for the hotel, and the other person can pay for something like the food. That’s how you can sacrifice, but there could be hard feelings after that. If your traveling style is that different, where one person likes luxury more than the other, then it could become a problem.
So, there must be compromise. I know people who have done that and it’s OK, but it just depends. If it’s too much of a gap, ultimately, these two people might just be living completely different lifestyles.
How can a new couple decompress after traveling together?
I think the best way after coming back from traveling is, if you’re living separately, then obviously going back and taking space, but I feel like if you’ve spent all that time with that person, you shouldn’t be feeling weird. I think it’s good to be away from each other. Go out with friends, talk about your trip, and just focus on relaxing. I’ve known couples who have come back from trips and they’re happy and spend more time together once they’re back because they were able to bond on the trip. But you know, also take some time on your own. Most people who have had a decent trip want to spend more time together once they come back. If it was a crazy trip and there are angry feelings, that’s a bad omen, and I’ve seen that happen, too.